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Abby Lembersky

The Capstone Experience: Consulting with the Chazen Museum

by Abby Lembersky Monday, February 26, 2018

I have a clear recollection of my initial conversation with Sherry when I first began considering leaving my full time job to pursue a degree at the Bolz Center. Sherry highlighted the 2nd year capstone consulting project as one of the strengths of this program. I was intrigued but promptly forgot specifics about the project – second year felt so far away and there were other, more pressing things to excite me about being a Bolzie. But now, here I am, over half-way through my 2nd year and half-way through the consulting project - and I can clearly see Sherry’s accuracy. Our consulting project is indeed a very special thing and an incredible asset to my education.

This year the second year Bolzies are working on two projects: a development plan for the creative economy in the Village of Waunakee and an audience development plan for the on-campus Chazen Museum of Art. For time and capacity’s sake, we’ve divvied out the meatier aspects of the workload and I am working more closely on the Chazen initiative.

The Chazen seeks to increase their on-campus impact by increasing overall undergraduate attendance. To achieve this goal, the Chazen must first understand the museum’s current perception across campus as well as the behaviors and interests of their target audience.  Only then can the museum accurately create feasible and effective audience development strategies. This is where the Bolz Center team comes in: we are designing and executing a series of research projects designed to answer these very fundamental audience development questions.

Over the past few months we have conducted interviews with Chazen staff, volunteers, and advisory board members; crafted, disseminated, and analyzed a behavioral survey of the UW-Madison undergrad community; completed benchmarking research on successful audience development strategies in equivalent institutions; delved into research on best practices in audience development from the Wallace Foundation; and held focus groups to get in-depth qualitative information about the behaviors and interests of our target audience members. In the weeks to come, we will synthesize our research and make strategic suggestions for the Chazen about ways to increase their visibility, reach, and relevance.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have this particular capstone experience. First and foremost, the project is an amalgamation of many of the skills and lessons from my MBA coursework. I am drawing on ideas from classes including marketing, strategy, marketing analytics, and data-to-decisions. The project also provides me practical and tangible analysis and interpersonal skills that I will certainly use in my future job, and talk about in my future job interviews. Lastly, the capstone project has been a wonderful opportunity for my fellow Bolzies and I to solidify our working relationships. After a year and a half together, we 5 students understand and acknowledge our individual interests and strengths and expertly using this knowledge to maximize our effectiveness. It is a joy to work alongside my Bolzie team and I look forward to celebrating the finished project together in a few short months.